If I had to do a post on history's most famous Tic Tac Toe moments the list would probably look like this:
1. The time the WOPR nearly imploded in the movie War Games playing Tic Tac Toe against itself over and over and over again. Remember that barrage of "cat's games" (Tic Tac Toe-speak for a "draw," kids)?
2. (tie) Every episode of the Wink Martindale hosted Tic Tac Dough!
That's pretty much it. Tic Tac Toe stopped being a prominent game of choice right around the advent of Pong (which begat ATARI which begat Nintendo which begat xBox). Indeed, once video games became all the rage, the "chicken scratch" family of games like Tic Tac Toe, Hangman, and the little folded up paper thing that girls would digitally massage back and forth to predict your future all became obsolete.
So who do we blame for this debacle that took place at the Rockets playoff game on Monday night? Do we blame society for eschewing the "light brain teaser on paper" genre of pastime games, or do we blame these two participants for so thoroughly butchering a game that most of us had mastered by the time we were in third grade?
Or do we just blame the government?
In case you missed it and in case you haven't seen the many in-game "crowd engagement" follies that the Rockets present at their games, on Monday two contestants squared off in a game of on court Tic Tac Toe. The catch with the game is that each time a player made a layup, he got an X or an O and could place it on the board, so the faster a player makes layups, the more control he can seize of the game. It's the perfect combination of remedial athletic ability and remedial brain teasers. The winner walks away with the prestigious "bag of autographed, logo randomness."
So what happened on Monday? Well, this….
Ok, there is no need to break this thing down in detail….but that's never stopped me before. So let's break this down in detail!
0:01 — Let's introduce the players involved in this video. There's, of course, Chrislord Templonuevo and Natalie Alvarado, Rockets employees who are in charge of all the in-game promotional presentations at the Rockets games. They do a fine job. They introduce us to the two participants — Reed and Blake.
0:04 — Reed has on a "game face" that says "I am in the goddamn Game 7 of cheesy promotional timeout games." He will rip Blake's heart out of his chest, show it to him, and bite into it like a Macintosh apple if Blake gives him the chance.
0:08 — Blake, on the other hand, has a smoothness about him, an easy going aura that can best be summed up with his white IZOD golf shirt underneath his red promotional t-shirt. He seems happy just to be there, and might save Reed the trouble by ripping out his own heart, handing it to Reed, and saying "Here ya go, pal…take a bite!"
0:13 — And they're off!!
0:14 — Attire-wise, it's a little unfair, with Reed dressed like he knew he'd be playing hoops, and Blake dressed like he's going to a casual brunch. Blake, by the way, becomes the first person to ever use the rim to protect his shot from a nonexistent shot blocker on his first shot (a miss).
0:20 — Reed draws first blood, and places an X in the center square, which is the exact right move. As you will see, there will be very few right moves in this game.
0:23 — Blake goes upper right corner with the O (which is actually a Toyota logo, because subliminally, they hope you run out after this game and buy a Camry), good enough move there.
0:25 — Reed is balling out like T-Mac going for 13 in 39 seconds, bitches! He secures his next X, while Reed is finishing on a Terrence Jones level at the other end (not a compliment). Reed goes with X upper left corner and now has a potential win on the board if he can get an X in the lower right.
0:33 — Blake with the BLOCK in the lower right and now with an O in the right center, Blake can take the victory! This is a barn burner, people. Two titans at the height of their powers, like watching Kobe and LeBron duel back in 2009.
0:40 — Ummmm….
0:41 — Ok, not sure where Reed is going with this. Not only does he fault to block Blake's right column play, but he doesn't even put the X in a box that gives him multiple winning combinations. It's fairly obvious that Reed just seems to think the goal is just to make sure the X lands inside a square. Any square. Blake should win this thing now….
0:44 — Wait, WHAAAA??? Blake just blocked Reed's middle column play….when he had a right column win sitting right there in front of him! Clearly, Blake thinks the road to a champion in the Tic Tac Toe world is by playing defense. I'm not sure I agree. And by the way, we are now in a world where Reed just might be an evil genius. Let's see how it plays out….
0:52 — Reed is holding an X and staring at the board like it's a book of sonnets written in Sanskrit. Ultimately, instead of blocking Blake he harmlessly places the X in lower left. Yeah, NOT an evil genius.
0:56 — Blake, wit his second chance to win this thing, calmly keeps with his defensive philosophy and blocks Reed. Somewhere, Tom Thibodeau nods his head (and bites into a 12 inch meatball sub).
1:03 — Natalie: "Chrislord, what is going on?" I wish we knew, Nat. I wish we knew. Chrislord and Natalie ask each other exactly what they should do with the prize as, for the first time in the history of this game (I'm totally guessing at this), they have a draw. They ask the crowd if they should give the prize pack to Blake or Reed. Predictably, the crowd thinks that Blake and Reed should both be severely beaten with the sharp corner of one of the plastic X's.
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So there you go, you just witnessed the most depressing Tic Tac Toe game of all-time. To be fair to Blake, at least he admitted on Twitter that he butchered the whole thing...
@SeanTPendergast I am one of those horrible tic tax toe players haha I screwed up— Blake Mullen (@BlakeMullen92) May 26, 2015
Accountability is a good thing.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.